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The views and opinions expressed in our blog series are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.
I really wasn’t sure what this Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on death and dying was going to look like but I dived in boots and all.
I am a nurse working as an End of Life Care Coordinator, so dead, death and dying are among the three most common words I use every day at work. I approached this course not only from a professional point of view but as a member of the community. I feel this made my experience so much richer, as I was able to appreciate the comments from across the board and indeed from across the world.
Over the past two years, CareSearch has hosted Dying2Learn, a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) about death and dying. We created the course hoping we could provide a community platform for open social discussion and connection on death, dying and palliative care – something that at times can be hard to strike up a conversation about in our day-to-day lives.
Australians are not well prepared for death and there are indications that many people are not comfortable talking about death. It may be that as medical advances have improved our life span we have become less familiar with death or that as our community has changed our rituals and practices for caring for the dying have also changed. The last few years have seen an increasing interest in ensuring that dying is recognised within the community. Death education, public health promoting palliative care, death cafes, and compassionate communities are just some of the ways that people are reclaiming an awareness of, and a responsibility for, death and dying.
One of the statements we commonly see in research reports and in policy and service documents is a comment about an ageing population. The reality of a demographic change where people are living longer than ever before has been instrumental in driving rethinking around issues such as retirement age, superannuation access, healthy lifestyles and supportive living environments. Living longer does not however mean living forever, and an ageing population means we also need to consider how we support older Australians as they approach death.
Wandering around your city or town, have you ever seen ‘pop-up’ chalk boards inviting you to contribute your thoughts on an issue affecting us all? If you were asked what one thing you’d want before you die, what would it be? Travel to a dreamt-of place? Marry your beloved? See your grandchildren born? See Collingwood win the AFL Grand Final (go the ‘pies!)?
Chances are you’ll see a ‘Before I die, I want to…’ board somewhere (Before I Die website). It’s an initiative that encourages open dialogue about death with the hope that it will engender compassion for those in our community who are living with a life-limiting illness. It’s a bit like a bucket list, really.